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John Gloucester [1776-1822] was the first African American to become an ordained Presbyterian minister in the United States. Born into slavery in Tennessee in the year 1776, he was able to relocate to Philadelphia in 1807. His preaching ministry began there in a house on Gaskill Street, and as his ministry bore fruit, the growing congregation later moved to the corner of 7th and Shippen [or what is now Bainbridge] Streets in Philadelphia. It was at this location that the First African Presbyterian Church was built and dedicated in May of 1811.

Our post today is drawn from the account provided by the Rev. William T. Catto, in his Semi-Centenary Discourse, delivered in The First African Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia… (1857).

How the Good Man Dies

Of Mr. Glouchester’s subsequent labors in the Church, I have not much to record. His failing health, which for some time gave unmistakable evidence that his day of pilgrimage was wellnigh spent, gave no small uneasiness to his flock and anxiety to friends. Consumption had settled fairly upon him, and making a wreck of the once strong man. It was a heart-rending sight to behold the faithful venerable pastor, wasting away gradually but surely for the tomb; it was crushing to behold him, in the strength of manhood, weakened and wasted away by the destroyer, and no possibility of escape.

To him, however, it was a very little matter to decay and die; but his anxiety lay in another direction—it was towards his Church—the people, the object of all his anxieties, these lay near his heart; to them, during the latter part of his life, he gave the remaining energies of his mind, without much regard to anything else; hence his petition to his presbytery on the 27th June, 1820, stating his weakened condition and failing health, and requesting supplies for the pulpit, and also, knowing that the day of his stay on earth was wellnigh over, why, one year before he died, he took the occasion to address a letter to presbytery, dated April 18, 1821, recommending his son Jeremiah as a candidate for the Gospel ministry.

Previous to this, however, Mr. Gloucester, through the concurrence of the Church, had brought forward Samuel Cornnish and Benjamin Hughes to presbytery, to be received under their care as candidates for the ministry; and, from what I have gathered from the Minutes of Presbytery, these young men sustained themselves creditably in the parts of trial assigned to them by presbytery, from time to time as they were examined. In this, also, Mr. Gloucester’s qualities for perception were conspicuous. It will be perceived that his vision was not circumscribed within the narrow limits of his own immediate wants or interests; he was, as I have once before stated, a man of extensive observation; he threw his furtive glance far away into the future, and contemplated the Presbyterian Church, in the States of the Union, rising in the distance as in miniature, and still later looming up in greater magnitude, until he fully recognized its swelling proportions, from every point of view, spreading out and extending itself far and wide. Hence, as can easily be perceived, he took the timely precaution to have prepared the proper material in these young candidates for the ministry, in due time to supply the growing wants of these rising churches; and it is mainly to him and to this First African Presbyterian Church that the now respectable number of Presbyterian church in this land are supplied with ministers.

It pleased the great Head of the Church to remove Mr. Gloucester from his earthly toils and labors, on the 2d day of May, 1822, in the 46th year of his age. This solemn even was expected, from the known nature of his disease, and though it shrouded the hearts of his people and friends in mourning and sorrow, still they were prepared for the sad announcement; in fact, he himself, though feeble and weak, daily exhorted them to resignation to the will of God. I need not inform the reader of the gloom that his death cast over the community where he was known, and he was extensively known to the religious community; they all felt that not  only a great man had fallen that day in Israel, but a father, a light in the church, a shining light was extinguished.

His death was a peaceful one, full of hope; it might, perhaps, more properly be said that he fell asleep in Jesus. Could it be otherwise? His life was Christ-like, that was his life to be like Christ; for this he lived, for this he labored. I close the life of this devoted servant of God by a remark or two. That there were other colored men in Philadelphia laboring for the religious elevation of their people, is known, but if there ever was a man in Philadelphia of Mr. Gloucester’s position, whose upright and Christian walk and general character, considered from every point of view, that won for him the respect and esteem of the great and good men of his day, that man was Mr. Gloucester.

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified? 

A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Scripture References: Lev. 23:3; Ps. 92:1-2; Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:11-12; Jer. 17:21,22.

Questions:

1. What do we mean ·by sanctifying the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is sanctified by God in that He made it holy. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by man by man’s keeping it holy, by his using it for other purposes than his regular employments.

2.
What two things are we to do on the Sabbath day?

We are given permission by God to do two things: holy resting and holy worship.

3.
From what are we to rest on the Sabbath day?

We are to rest from all things that are not of necessity and mercy. This means that we are to rest even from things that are not sinful; that are lawful on other days, such as worldly employments and recreations.

4. When we speak of “holy worship” do we mean we must spend all day in church?

No, it is not meant that all day must be spent in church but it is meant that we should spend our time in either public or private worship. It should be a time for our souls to be renewed by God as we worship Him in prayer, Bible study, family worship.

5.
Would you say it is alright to rest the body on the Sabbath day?

Yes, it would be well within the keeping of the commandment to rest the body. This is one of the reasons for the Sabbath day for God knew in the beginning that the body would need one day of rest out of seven.

6.
Should there be any preparation for the Sabbath day?

Yes, there should be both physical and spiritual preparation. For example, everything possible should be done prior to the day in the physical realm so that the day might be spent as unto Him. Our devotional article speaks of the spiritual preparation.

PREPARATION FOR THE SABBATH

The family is gathered in church on Sunday morning. The service is about to start. The minister asks a question, asks it even before the Invocation. He asks, “How many of you have taken time to prepare your souls for this, the Lord’s Day?” How would we answer such a question; what would have been our answer last Sunday morning?

There has been much said regarding the keeping of the Sabbath day, and this is proper. Indeed, our country is guilty of breaking it time and time again and born again Christians are joining in. But possibly some emphasis should be put on the matter of preparation for the day. There seems to be little said about this important aspect. It might well be there would be less breaking of the Sabbath if there was more preparation for it!

How can we prepare for the Sabbath day? What things would be important for us to do in order that we might be better prepared to spend the day as the Lord would have us to spend it? The following list might be helpful as we seek to live unto Him in this area:

1. Dedicate the day to the Lord beforehand and rejoice at the prospect of it. Recognize this is truly the Lord’s Day. We should seek, by His grace, to make it a special day of blessing to our souls.

2. Use a good portion of the time on Saturday evening for a spiritual retreat. Closet yourself with the Word, with prayer, filling your soul with the things that be of God. Recognize that your heart needs to be cleansed from the things of the world, necessary things possibly, but things that have entered in to choke the Word.

3. Use some time for meditation. Instead of only reading the Word and praying, think on the things of God and of God Himself. Think on His works, on His holiness, on the wonderful fact of redemption, on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Pray for the minister, pray that he will be prepared for the preaching of the Word, the primary means of grace. Hold him up before the Throne of Grace, pray that he will be a fit vessel for the Master’s use.

It is time that God’s people, His saved, prepare themselves for the Lord’s Day and its activities. As the people of Israel had to wash their bodies before the law was presented to them, so should the believers in Christ prepare their souls for the Lord’s Day. (Ex. 19:10). Think of what the result could be in His work if His people were to make some spiritual retreats in preparation for His day!

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 55 (July 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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kerr_robertPWe return today to our Saturday visits with a little book by the Rev. R.P. Kerr, titled PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE. Today’s section is chapter three of that book, covering the earliest examples in the Bible of the Presbyterian system of government.

Rev. Kerr was the author of some eight other books and numerous articles. Born in 1850, he began his ministerial career in 1873 as pastor of a church in Lexington, Missouri. Kerr served churches in both the old Southern Presbyterian Church [1873-1903] and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. [1903-23]. Honorably retired and in ill health in 1915, he died on March 25, 1923.

Presbyterianism for the People.
by Robert P. Kerr
(1883)

CHAPTER III.
THE BIBLE ORIGIN OF PRESBYTERIANISM.

We claim that whereas no kind of Church government is commanded, yet Presbyterianism was practiced from the earliest times. There is no command to change the Sabbath from the last to the first day of the week, but the Christian Church observes the first day because it was the practice of the apostolic Church so to do.

The Church existed first in the family, the father being the head. As families multiplied, their several heads, or elders, would naturally form a ruling assembly; but because a body composed of all the heads of families in an extensive community would be too large for general efficiency, the people would elect from the number of older men certain ones conspicuous for piety and wisdom to be their representative rulers. They would then have a Presbytery. In a simple state of society this body would have charge of both religious and secular affairs, but as society advances a necessity arises for the separation of the affairs of Church and State. In Old-Testament times they were united, but were separated under the New Dispensation.

We find this presbyterial government in operation among the children of Israel in Egypt when Moses came upon the stage of history. God told him to go and call together the “elders of Israel” and lay his business before them. He was to be their leader in the exodus from Egypt and in the journey to Canaan; but, through divinely appointed to this office, he did not undertake it without calling together the elders of the people and explaining God’s purpose to them. In the Presbyterian Church of to-day, if a man feels called of God to be a pastor and to preach the gospel, the Presbytery must sit in judgment upon his credentials and qualifications. Moses afterward organized a higher court, or assembly—very like a General Assembly—of those whom he knew to be elders, to preside over the government of the whole Church. This body was composed of seventy elders, and was in alter times called “the Sanhedrim.” Beginning with Exodus iii. 16, the word “elder” (signifying “ruler”) is used in the Old Testament about one hundred times, and over sixty times in the New. Their duties were the same as those of elders now—administrative and judicial, to administer the government and to decide cases. This is a simple statement of the functions of elders in all ages, growing out of the very nature of things and having God’s endorsement. The administrative function is seen in their coming together to receive Moses; the judicial (Deut. xix. 11), where they were instructed to try men for murder. These two cases are selected as typical of the large number, which may be seen by referring to any concordance of the Bible, under the word “Elder.”

The introduction of the priesthood interfered not with the office of elder. The priesthood was part of the ceremonial system of worship, of which the temple was the representative. The business of the priest was to offer sacrifices and to intercede for the people, as a type of Christ. But when Christ came the great sacrifice was made, and there was no further use for sacrifice or priest to remind men that Christ was coming; so the veil of the temple was rent when Christ said, “It is finished!” Then priestly sacrifices and gorgeous ritual passed away, God destroying, through the agency of Rome, every vestige of the temple where so long they had served. But there still remained untouched the old government of elders. In each synagogue there was a bench of elders and a “minister.” In Luke iv. 20, Christ “gave the book to the minister and sat down.” The synagogue elders were responsible to the Sanhedrim in Jerusalem, as we learn from The Life of Josephus (section xii.) and from other sources.

This was a government on the great principle of representative assemblies; which is Presbyterianism. The men who administered the government were often corrupt, but the principle was sound and was never called in question in the Scriptures.

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Prayer in Times of Apostasy

This is a rare bit of early Westminster Seminary history, located in an old issue of THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATE, dated June 1937.  Not three months following the death of J. Gresham Machen, the annual Day of Prayer was held on the Westminster campus in March of 1937. Arrangements had been made to have the Rev. John Cavitt Blackburn [1889-1959] present as the main speaker at the event.

Blackburn is interesting on several levels. His mother was Annie Williams Girardeau, one of the daughters of the Rev. Dr. John L. Girardeau. [His father, George A. Blackburn, authored The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL.DJohn Cavitt Blackburn was educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1914-1918, back when the Seminary was still located in Columbia, SC. John also became quite the bibliophile. He had a significant library, built in part upon the libraries of his father and grandfather, and which collection later became a significant early addition to the library at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS, by way of a donation from Blackburn’s widow. Rev. Blackburn’s library was apparently sizable enough that duplicates and other items even made their way to the Buswell Library at Covenant Theological Seminary.

It is also interesting to note Blackburn’s presence as indicative of a connection between Westminster Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church.  To engage in a bit of speculation, the invitation to have Rev. Blackburn speak at the annual Day of Prayer would have been extended months prior, certainly well before Machen’s death, and perhaps even by Dr. Machen himself. Without troubling ourselves to access Machen’s correspondence to confirm that idea, we do know that Dr. Machen had presented his lectures on the virgin birth of Christ at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia. These were the Thomas Smyth Lectures for 1927, and during that time, Rev. Blackburn pastored a church just twenty-some miles away. He could easily have attended those lectures. Lastly, Machen’s father served for a time as one of the trustees at the Seminary. So in light of those connections, it is entirely possible that Machen might have known Rev. Blackburn for many years prior to 1937.

Though he was a pastor for over thirty years, to my knowledge, this is the only surviving example of a sermon by Rev. Blackburn.

PRAYER IN TIMES OF APOSTASY.
by the Rev. John C. Blackburn
[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 71.6 (June 1937): 90-96, and a reprint from an earlier issue of The Presbyterian Guardian 4.3 (15 May 1937): 40-42.]

This article is a summary of an address delivered at the annual Day of Prayer at Westminster Theological Seminary last March. Mr. Blackburn is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.

The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

This text on prayer is chosen as appropriate to a day of prayer. It is evidently the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach more than one truth about prayer in this passage. But it shall be our purpose, today, to draw from it instruction as to what is our duty and encouragement in prayer in the present evil hour. The inspired writer sets before us Elijah, the well-known prophet of the Old Testament, “a righteous man,” whose prayers of imprecation and intercession are cited with approval as an illustration of the kind of prayer which “availeth much”—in an evil day. If we are to profit by the implicit truth of this text we will have to develop it in the light of its historical background.

The Times of Elijah

No historical era can be viewed as an age apart from the times that precede it. The evil days of Ahab were such as they were largely through predetermining causes. His reign was a sequence of a varied series of sins that reached an inevitable climax of wickedness in his reign.

To Solomon must be charged the policy that opened the door in Israel to alien evils. His “outlandish” wives influenced him into the adoption of an “inclusive policy” through which the worship of false gods was tolerated along with the worship of Jehovah. This liberal attitude brought from Jehovah the charge: “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of Ammon.”

Jeroboam the First inaugurated a policy of the boldest expediency. His program called for an alteration of the Mosaic constitution. He changed the spiritual leadership of his kingdom. “He made priests from among all the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” “He ordained a feast for the children of Israel.” “He made houses of high places.” “All of which he had devised.” Moreover he reintroduced into Israel, as an amicable gesture to the neighboring kingdom of Egypt, the idolatrous worship of the golden calf—the Heliopolitan deity, Mnevis.

Through five regencies—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri—the conventional, court-sponsored religion of the Northern Kingdom flowed with increasing corruption. Against each of these kings, without exception, can be found the condemning words of the sacred chronicler of Israel: “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

But it is in the reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, that the departure from Jehovah’s law reaches a fullness of iniquity that insures judgment, for “there was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

It will be enlightening to examine the nature of the sins of that administration which provoked the righteous indignation of Elijah and brought forth the call for the rod of Jehovah’s displeasure upon His people and His land.

One sin of Ahab was sacrificing his own spiritual interests and that of his kingdom for lust. The law of Jehovah forbade matrimony with the heathen as an unholy alliance. Ahab showed his lack of principle and disregard of the commandments of the Lord by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, high priest of Astarte, a cousin of Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid. This “lust match” quickly eventuated in the apotheosis of lust throughout the Northern Kingdom. The worship of Ashtoreth became court religion, the libidinous orgies of Tyre and Sidon were celebrated in Israel, and the morals of the populace degenerated and dissipated under the seductive influence of these lascivious rites.

Another sin of Ahab’s was his practice of tolerance in religion—a kind of broad-churchism, without a limit. The innovations and vanities of Jeroboam and his successors were accepted and practiced on the grounds of antiquity, tradition, and custom, while the ancient law of Sinai was made of none effect through local and temporal expediency. To please the Zidonians, Tyrians and Baal-serving apostates in his kingdom, he built a temple for Baal in his capital, Samaria. For the survivors of the old Canaanitish race, “he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did.” Thus he conciliated all men with his liberal and inclusive policy, and affronted Jehovah with his contempt of His holy commandments.

The crowning sin of Ahab was his effort to silence godly protest and warning of judgment by Jehovah’s prophets, and his attempt to exterminate by martyrdom the witnesses for truth. The price of protest was high in those days. The little minority that refused to be broad “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; . . . they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Such were the days of Elijah, days that try the souls of the righteous and force them to fervent prayer: Unscrupulous despots enthroned in power, the patrons of false religion; the masses subserviently acquiescent in the betrayal and abandonment of the true faith; truth spurned, trodden underfoot, and the righteous being persecuted from the face of the earth.

Elijah’s Imprecation

Jehovah will not leave Himself without witness. Abruptly, unannounced, there appears a prophet of Jehovah, Elijah the Tishbite, of the sojourners of Gilead, with the disturbing announcement to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And he disappears as mysteriously as he appears. There, in hiding at Chereth, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.”

Was it right so to pray—in a land where rain and life are synonymous—where drought means famine, starvation, death? Evidently Elijah, a righteous man, thought so, for he prayed earnestly to that end. Evidently Jehovah sanctioned it for it was answered in kind. Is it right so to pray? James, under the guidance of the Spirit, is citing this instance of Elijah’s imprecation, not only as an illustration of the prophet’s prevalence in prayer, but as an inspiration for New Testament saints so to pray. And thus the Reformed Church has taught, prayed, and sung in Psalm. We cannot deny the righteousness of such a prayer, under the New Covenant, without falling into the error of a dual morality, under the Old and the New Covenant. God’s honor may be thus vindicated, His purposes furthered. Israel’s spiritual and material interests could be thus promoted. The virulency of sin warranted such drastic measures and the obduracy of sin merited such severity. The ends justified the means.

But why did the prophet make this particular prayer for the stopping of the rain from heaven? Because it would prove to Israel that God’s hand was in this judgment, that “He sealest up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.” Because such a judgment would be the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Law, of drought as punishment for apostasy. Because the withholding of rain would convert that which they worshipped as a symbol of Baal—the sun—-into an intolerable curse. Therefore Elijah, Jehovah’s lonely witness in his generation, “a main subject to like passions as we are,” with zeal for Jehovah’s sovereignty, with righteous indignation against wickedness, with a longing for the salvation of Israel, “prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

From the very day of the prophet’s prediction the drought began. As the fields began to wither, anxious eyes scanned the western sky for signs of rain. The summer passed and the harvest was shriveled and meagre. The early and the latter rain had failed. The sowing of the spring that followed sprouted only to die away for lack of moisture. The trees on the high ridges shed their seared leaves. The burned and blighted fruit of the orchards was prematurely dropped. There were no sheaves in the garner, no wine in the vat, no oil from the press. The third summer came upon a land parched and powdered. The fountains had ceased to flow. The deep wells were dry. The cisterns were empty. Gaunt famine stalked through the land taking its toll of scrawny-handed children, sunken-eyed women, and hollow-cheeked men. Overhead the sky was brazed to the incantations of the priests of Baal. Israel was perishing from off the face of their land.

And Elijah prayed on. Such is the perverseness of depraved human nature, such the hardness of the natural heart, such the obduracy of willful sinners, that they must be brought to the very gates of death before they can be turned about. God’s opportunity comes in extremity. At the moment of national ruin Jehovah’s spokesman stepped into the scene again. Out from his hiding at Chereth, out from his biding at Zerephath, came the prophet.

Elijah’s Intercession  

“And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” was the astonished and indignant salutation of Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house,” is Elijah’s resentful rejoinder. Out of the variance came a challenge to battle: “Send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred which eat at Jezebel’s table.” Forth rode the couriers with the royal summons. The issue was: live, or die.

Beautiful, suitable in location, was Carmel, a median ground between Jehovah’s land and Baal’s strand. Northward rose the forest-clad slopes of Lebanon. Westward lay the blue waters of the Great Sea, dotted with the purple-sailed argosies of a maritime people. Beneath the mountain and beside the sea nestled the teeming marts of Tyre and Sidon. This was Baal’s land. Eastward and southward stretched the plain of Jezreel, walled about with rolling mountains, Gilboa, Tabor, Ebal and Gerizim. On this plain, in the shadow of those mountains, the heroes of the faith had turned back the armies of the aliens, not by many but by few. This was Jehovah’s land.

From a vantage point of Carmel Elijah saw the assembling of Israel. From near and far, from mountain and plain, from village and town, o’er highway and byway, converged a motley multitude of pilgrims, gathering to the battle of the gods.

At the early hour of dawn, Elijah stands before the throng and opens the controversy. “How long ‘halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was an urge for decision, a call for division, on an ancient fundamental; “Jehovah thy God is a jealous God,” and, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jehovah’s prophet was forcing an issue; he was fighting the most dangerous enemy of pure religion; half-heartedness, two-facedness, dual allegiance. “And the people answered him not a word.” Shameful silence! Some were convicted, some were abashed, some afraid, some defiant. None answered. Craven dumbness! How disgraceful is muteness when right and wrong join strife.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it m pieces, and lay in on wood, and put no fire under and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire let him be God.” The minority party stands face to face with the majority.. The odds are four hundred to one. No, four hundred to Two! Four hundred priests without God against a prophet and his God. And the ordeal is by fire. The advantage is Baal’s, for he is the fire-god, and the sun is his flame. Let not man, but Heaven decide.

Up from the purple hills of Bashan rose the auriflamme [oriflamme] of day. It filled the valleys ‘with a crimson flood, and drenched the plain of Magiddo into a prophetic Alceldama. Down bowed the votaries of Baal. Then rising up, they circled their altar with rhythmic dance. Higher and higher climbed the sun, faster and faster the priests did prance. Louder and louder rang their cries. Immovable and silent remained the skies. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” They leaped upon the altar. They cut themselves with knives. Leaping, sweating, bleeding, screaming, they fell exhausted. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts were futile, their prayers unanswered, their heaven silent, their god was impotent! False!!

It came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice—blessed hour!—that Elijah said unto all the people, “Come near unto me.” Gracious invitation of a God of grace! And Elijah built an altar, of twelve stones in the name of Jehovah. He put the wood in order, placed the sacrifice, drenched the offering, altar, ground, with water. Then he came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

Then the fire fell, hissing, crackling, blinding. It burned the burnt-offering, the wood, the stone, the dust, the water. Down fell the people on their faces. A mighty shout shook the mountain wall—Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!!

Jehovah acclaimed: sin must be judged. Red ran the brook Kishon with the blood of Baal’s priests that day.

Sin removed, the blessing comes. While the king went up to eat and drink, the prophet went up to pray. Seven times he interceded before a cloud appeared. Faith’s ear had caught the sound of rain, now the eye of faith beholds the showers. “Haste!” said the prophet to the king, “that the rain stop thee not.” In the meanwhile the heavens were black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain—and the earth brought forth her fruit. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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Tell Me the Old, Old Story —

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.

In order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there the days were completed for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

But  the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

for today in the city of David there  has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased:

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this things that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they came in a hurry and found their way  to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

And all who hear it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:1–21

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